Thursday, January 12, 2017

Top 50 Albums of 2016

In a year that seemed so dark, music brought us light and wonder. 2016 may have been one of the best years in music in my lifetime and I am so grateful for all the incredible releases we saw this year from powerhouses like Kanye West, David Bowie and Beyoncé to the next generation of stars like Anderson .Paak, Chance the Rapper and Car Seat Headrest. I couldn't listen to every release in 2016 but I listened to as many as I possibly could and this is the result.


50.   Everything Feels Better Now by From Indian Lakes
Their follow up to the enjoyable Absent Sounds explores a more ambient and electronic sound space
and makes for a solid record all around.

*

49.   ANTI by Rihanna
Riri drops her strongest and most cohesive album to date including two of her best tracks ever with
'Work' and 'Needed Me'.

*

48.   Kindly Now by Keaton Henson
Keaton Henson delivers yet another heartbreaking LP, but this time around he experiments more with
strings and synthesizers and it pays off wonderfully.

*

47.   Yes Lawd! by NxWorries
Producer Knxwledge and Anderson .Paak team up for a fun and groovy LP.

*

46.   Bottomless Pit by Death Grips
Death Grips 2.0 are here and Bottomless Pit may be their hardest hitting album to date.

*

45.   Sunlit Youth by Local Natives
Local Natives continue to release one solid effort after another and Sunlit Youth is one of their most
enjoyable efforts to date.

*

44.   Big Baby D.R.A.M. by D.R.A.M.
It took a while but D.R.A.M. finally released a full length album and it features some of his catchiest
jams yet with 'Broccoli', 'Cute' and 'Cash Machine'.

*

43.   Awaken, My Love! by Childish Gambino
Possibly the biggest musical surprise of the year was Awaken, My Love! We were all expecting Donald
to drop something and after hearing snippets of new music in his fantastic FX show Atlanta, I don't
think anyone expected this. A joyful and striking funk and r&b album.

*

42.   I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are... by The 1975
Somehow, The 1975 managed to make a record that is far catchier and more enjoyable than their
self-titled debut.

*

41.   The Psychedelic Swamp by Dr. Dog
Dr. Dog seem to surprise me on every record they put out. They always manage to find new ways to
combine their excellent songwriting with new sounds and themes and The Psychedelic Swamp is a
perfect example of this.

*

40.   VIEWS by Drake
VIEWS had the potential to be one of the years best records but it just runs too long and features a few
tracks that seem out of place (why the fuck is 'Hotline Bling' on this, for real?) Though the LP lacks a
sense of focus, VIEWS contains some of Drake's best works of his career thus far.

*

39.   Down in Heaven by Twin Peaks
On their second LP, Twin Peaks continue to shine through their excellent connection with each other
and this connection is even more evident in these songs, it is impossible to listen to a track and not
imagine the boys having the time of their lives, shredding together.

*

38.   Light Upon the Lake by Whitney
Just when you thought acoustic indie rock was dead, 2016 gives us Whitney. Their debut LP
Light Upon the Lake is beautiful, catchy and inspiring.

*

37.   HOPELESSNESS by ANOHNI
Formerly known as Antony Hegarty, now ANOHNI, delivers her first LP under the name and it is
devastating. Featuring her unique and epic vocals combined with stellar electro-pop production,
HOPELESSNESS is a must listen.

*

36.   A Seat at the Table by Solange
Solange has been around for a while now but didn't really make a drastic impact until this release.
Arguable one of the most pleasant sounding records of the year but also one of the most socially aware
records of the year. Solange's beautiful vocals and keen writing skills are on full display on A Seat at 
the Table.

*

35.   We're All Gonna Die by Dawes
With their 5th studio album Dawes changes thing sup a little bit, getting a bit weirder and experiment
with new sounds that help make this their strongest album yet.

*

34.   My Woman by Angel Olsen
Fresh off of her superb 2014 release Burn Your Fire for No Witness, Angel drops another impressive
record filled with more of her sharp lyrics and banging guitar riffs.

*

33. Prima Donna by Vince Staples
Prima Donna is just as strange and bonkers as his past work has been but here Vince find a new
found freshness both in lyrics and in the production of the tracks. I'm excited to see where he takes
this past just a short 20-minute EP.

*

32.   The Colour in Anything by James Blake
James Blake is one of the most unique and interesting artists around right now. He is a quiet soul
but his music speaks volumes. The Colour in Anything finds Blake working with better structured 
songs but still blending in his strange, experimental sounds.

*

31.   Skeleton Tree by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds have been together for over 30 years but have never put together an album
so dark and so powerful (a combination they're quite good at). Skeleton Tree provides us with some of
Nick's most brilliant lyricism and The Seeds most unique production to date.

*

30.   Freetown Sound by Blood Orange
Dev Hynes finds an almost brand new sound on Freetown Sound, blending sounds from his previous
works to create an atmosphere and vibe we've never felt on pervious records.

*

29.   There's Alot Going On by Vic Mensa
One of the most overlooked EP's of the year shows the versatility and true talent of Chicago rapper
Vic Mensa. After being signed to GOOD music but then actually signing to Roc Nation, people were
very excited to see what Vic would do next. It took a little while but he eventually dropped There's
Alot Going On and I think it's safe to say, those of us who were watching were very satisfied.

*

28.   Puberty 2 by Mitski
Puberty 2 is one of the rawest and realest albums of the year. Mitski is not afraid to bare her soul and
her honest thoughts and feelings on life, love and music.

*

27.   Blank Face LP by ScHoolboy Q
Even through dynamic features from Kanye West, Vince Staples and Miguel, it is still ScHoolboy who
shines throughout. His lyrics are sharper than ever, his flows are bette than ever before and his
personality is as bright as ever.

*

26.   The Devine Feminine by Mac Miller
If you told me a few years a go that I would have loved a Mac Miller album as much as I love
The Devine Feminine I would have thought you were insane and maybe would have slapped you
in your stupid face, but here we are. TDF shows Mac's true potential. His lyrics are still silly at times
but his craftsmanship is incomparable to any other time in his career.

*

25.   Sirens by Nicolas Jarr
I. Love. Nicolas. Jarr. The man's music is so strange and all over the place and that's why I love him.
Sirens displays this perfectly. He opens the record with an 11 minute track which contains no vocals
or cohesiveness until about 5 minutes in. The track then picks up slowly, getting more odd and eerie with
every note. The rest of the record follows this unusual musical pattern and its amazing.

*

24.   Run the Jewels 3 by Run the Jewels
It was a Christmas fucking miracle when I opened my phone and saw that RTJ had dropped RTJ3 a
whole 2 weeks ahead of time and man did I need that. RTJ3 brings back the give no fucks attitude that
 we have witnessed on both RTJ1 and RTJ2 but with even more precision and depth than ever before.

*

23.   JEFFERY by Young Thug
Like him or not, you have to respect what Thugger is doing. The dude put out 3 solo projects this
year and all of them where solid, he also has a giant features tally going for him. He's always creating,
but he hasn't made anything like JEFFERY. The record features his usual bonkers lyrics and a weird
gimmick like naming all of the tracks after celebrities or a dead gorilla, but the production is unlike
anything you've heard on a Thug joint. There isn't a moment on this LP that isn't enjoyable. It'll be
interesting to see where Jeffery goes next.

*

22.   Remember Us to Life by Regina Spektor
Regina Spektor has always had  knack for writing and recording enjoyable songs but she's never
really been able to hold up for an entire album (at least for me anyways) but Remember Us to Life is an
enjoyable and emotional ride from the second her vocals kick in on Bleeding Heart to heart welling
strings end on The Visit.

*

21.   Wildflower by The Avalanches
I dare you to try and listen to just one minute of this LP and not find yourself smiling. The Avalanches
long awaited follow up to Since I Left You is just as thrilling and awesome as we could have ever
hoped it would be. With features from the likes of Toro y Moi's Chaz Bundick, Danny Brown and
FUCKING BIZ MARKIE, Wildflower is not a record to sleep on.

*

20.   Telefone by Noname
I've been waiting for this album since the second I heard her verse on Chance the Rapper's
2013 track 'Lost'. Since then she had appeared on several tracks, mostly for Chance, and each time
I got more and more excited for a full length effort from her and then the time finally came and I was so
satisfied. I'm listening to the LP again now as I'm writing this and I am still so awestruck by the originality
and beauty that is found in ever note and every word on this album. Truly one of the years best records.

*

19.   A Moon Shaped Pool by Radiohead
One of the most heart wrenching and emotional albums of the year was given to us by, surprise,
surprise, Radiohead. A Moon Shaped Pool is one of their strongest efforts since Kid A, featuring
epic and terrifying tracks like Burn the Witch and heartbreaking somber tracks like Daydreaming. 

*

18.   You Want it Darker by Leonard Cohen
I had never taken the time to listen to Leonard Cohen in depth but I knew how respected he was and his
impact on music. When You Want It Darker was dropped something in me just said "give it a listen"
so I did and it was a wonderful decision. Cohen's deep raspy voice pairs so well with the somber
production and compositions. We sadly lost him shortly after the release, but he went out with
perhaps some of his strongest work.

*

17.   iiiDrops by Joey Purp
SaveMoney member Joey Purp has always been around, jumping on tracks for the likes of Vic Mensa,
Towkio and The Social Experiment, but 2016 was finally his time to shine and he did just that with
iiiDrops. Joey finally showed the world that he is to be taken seriously. With the deadliest flow of all the
SaveMoney members and a great compilation of tracks to spit on there was no way iiiDrops
could have been anything but stellar.

*

16.   99.9% by KAYTRANADA
One of the most fun records you'll hear all year with an all star list of features including Anderson .Paak,
Vic Mensa, AlunaGeorge and many more, 99.9% really has it all. Kaytra combines hip hop and electronic
sounds unlike anyone has before, from bangers like GLOWED UP to boom clap tracks like DRIVE ME
CRAZY. Kaytra also delves into funkier tracks like TRACK UNO and GOT IT GOOD.
99.9% is an unforgettable debut effort.

*

15.   Next Thing by Frankie Cosmos
There's nothing really too flashy about Frankie's songs, they're usually about 2 minutes long or
shorter and usually feature a pretty simple chord and drum progression but there's just something so
charming and likable about them.  They feel real and honest. There's heart and passion
put into each track and it shows.

*

14.   I Had a Dream That You Were Mine
by Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam
After getting the devastating news that Rostam had left Vampire Weekend (my favorite band) I had
no idea how any good could come from this, and then we got I Had a Dream That You Were Mine. The
combination of Rostom's musical knowledge and talents as a producer and Hamilton's powerful, crunchy
voice, that can also be very soft and sweet when it need to be, is a recipe for success. Every damn
track is so enjoyable and grandiose.

*

13.   untitled unmastered. by Kendrick Lamar
Even Kendrick's B-sides are better than almost anything that came out in 2016, that says so much about
this man and his musical abilities. untitled unmastered is just 8 tracks long but somehow it feels like
enough. It feels like a epilogue to To Pimp a Butterfly, not that the masterpiece needed it, but here it
is and it is just as effective and hard as TPAB and I am so grateful he let these tracks see the light of day.

*

12.   HEAVN by Jamila Woods
You heard her soulful voice guide you though the chorus of Donnie Trumpet's 'Sunday Candy' and 
then again on Chance the Rapper's first single from Coloring Book, 'Blessings', and now Jamila
Woods has her very own solo effort and it's everything. Jamila shines in ways we never saw on
her work as a guest vocalist. She's powerful, smart, sassy and dominant. From start to finish
HEAVN is a delight.

*

11.   Teens of Denial by Car Seat Headrest
The first time I listened to this record was when I was driving back to Chicago from Minnesota
and what an incredible driving record this is. It thrashes and pounds, it slows down and creates a
soft mood and it rises back up in epic proportions. Teens of Denial is an absolute journey lead by the
unique vocals and lyrics from lead man Will Toledo. A marvelous record.

*

10.   Blackstar by David Bowie
"Look up here, I'm in heaven" David Bowie sings as a crunchy pounding guitar thrashes in in support
of his heavy words on the albums highlight 'Lazarus'. Blackstar came out just 2 days before his passing
and I think we could all sense something was up just based on the lyrics and the visuals that supported
the music. Blackstar, with or with out Bowie still breathing, is one of the best records of the year. Truly a
masterpiece created by an ailing mastermind. Bowie went out in glory just as he lived in it.
Thank you, starman.

*

9.   Pool by Porches
Pool is a record I had heard nothing but good things about, but I still just couldn't bring myself around to 
listening to it, and when I finally did I almost slapped myself in the face. Aaron Maine takes on a more
electronic, pop sound this time around and it pairs wonderfully with his soft, gentle vocals. Each song is filled
with so much emotion and heart that it is almost impossible not to get swept up in your own emotions and
get lost in the synths and 8o8's.

*

8.   Atrocity Exhibition by Danny Brown
"It's the downward spiral." Danny Brown is well known for being a goof ball and jokester, both in life and
in his music, but Atrocity Exhibition (best album name of the year, tbh) finds Danny battling with his
demons and struggling to figure out what the fuck is going on, and these themes are evident in the
tracks. Danny works with some of the most bonkers and experimental instrumentals he's ever rapped
over and his flow, as usual, is prodigious.

*

7.   Lemonade by Beyoncé
We've seen Beyoncé present herself in so many different ways through her music, usually by being a
strong, independent, boss-ass chick, but on Lemonade, for the first time, we see a broken and beaten down
Bey. The record begins with Bey softly asking "What are you doing, my love?" We then follow Bey as
she tries to regain and rebuild herself, first with 'Hold Up' where she pleads that "they don't love
you like I love you", then with an ode to defiance with 'Sorry', where she "ain't thinkin' 'bout you."
But finally she moves forward on 'All Night' coming to a place of peace and expectance,
"Oh how I've missed you, my love."

*

6.   22, A Million by Bon Iver
Justin Vernon has come a long way from his lonely little cabin inWisconsin where the fabulous For
Emma, Forever Ago was recorded. 22, A Million is absolutely nuts in comparison, the dramatic manipulation
to vocals and the deranged use of instruments and blending of sounds creates an unstable atmosphere but Justin
still manages to find a place of balance and calm with in these erratic progressions. Yet another record
proving that Justin Vernon is in a league of his own.

*

5.   Malibu by Anderson .Paak
2016 belonged to Anderson .Paak. Not only did he drop this amazing record but he also teamed up with
Knxwledge to form NxWorries and made the exceptional 'Yes Lawd!' As well as making appearances on records from
A Tribe Called Quest, KAYTRANADA, Mac Miller, ScHoolboy Q and many more. But let's talk about Malibu.
Andy is able to effortlessly combine the sounds of funk, r&b and hip-hop into one sound space. His vocals shine
on tracks like 'The Bird', 'Heart Don't Stand a Chance' and 'Without You' while his flow lights up tracks like 'The
Waters', 'Your Prime' and 'Come Down'. Malibu shows Anderson's versatility and dominance and I think we should
all get used to seeing him continue to light up the music world.

*

4.   The Life of Pablo by Kanye West
When the cover art was released for The Life of Pablo many people were confused and unimpressed
but little did they know it exuded the exact vibe that the album was about. It's sloppy, unconventional and
chaotic but behind all of that is genuine beauty and genius. The record opens with his magnum opus 'Ultralight
Beam' a gospel influenced, hip-hop epic that had us all believing this was going to be the gospel album Ye had
promised, but it became anything but that, the next 19 tracks would feature some of Kanye's most bizarre and
most interesting works to date. From Kanye boasting about how he made Taylor Swift famous to him asking if
it's cool if he fucks his girl right in the middle of a Vogue party to Yeezy reminding us that in 2020 he's gonna
"run the whole election", The Life of Pablo never ceases to entertain and attract listeners all while
alienating them at the same time.

*

3.   We Got It From Here... Thank You 4 Your Service
by A Tribe Called Quest
It wasn't expected but it was needed. A Tribe Called Quest album in 2016 seemed impossible after the
loss of Phife Dog, but as 2016 proved to us, anything is possible. The Tribe's return to form after 18 years
without a record was truly one of the best gifts in a year that didn't really deserve it. Q-Tip and Phife have
never sounded wiser or more brilliant than they do on We Got It From Here... Thank You 4 Your Service, and
this can be spotted instantly as the two open up the first track by powerfully announcing "We gotta get it together
for brothers / we gotta get it together for sisters / for mothers and fathers and dead niggas" "To make
something happen / lets make something happen."

*

2.   Blonde by Frank Ocean
There was no album in 2016 that was more hyped up than Frank Ocean's follow up to his 2012
masterpiece channel ORANGE. After four years of being teased and toyed with, Frank finally released
Blonde and man did he deliver. Blonde in many ways emulates much of the things Frank did on channel
ORANGE but with more maturity and grace this time around. Excluding just a few tracks there is hardly a
trace of percussion on this record. The songs are lead by Frank's vocals paired with some piano but
mostly guitars, and you would think this would leave the tracks feeling empty but Frank manages to fill
the space, making you forget that there is even an absence of drums. Frank's delivery of Blonde was strange
and mostly frustrating but in the end he graced us with one of the best collections of music we
could have hoped for.

*

1.   Coloring Book by Chance the Rapper
No record in 2016 got more plays on my Spotify than #Chance3 aka Coloring Book. This is the case
for two reasons, the first being the fact that Chance is my favorite artist alive right now and has been since
2013 (sorry, Kanye, I still love you). The second being that Chance is always there for me when I'm feeling
down, for instance, the night this record came out I went over to a friends place to listen to it but mostly because
I was trying to see a girl that night and she lived really close to his place. The night carried on, my friend ended
up having a girl came over and I was left alone in the living room, listening to Coloring Book for the
fifth time as I waited to hear back from the girl. I was eventually stood up and spent the night at my friends place,
but I listened to this album eight times that night. With as lonely as that night felt, I was comforted by this magnificent
record. A record filled with hope and love and joy and family and friendship. Any time I was losing hope
in 2016, Coloring Book was there for me, Chance was there for me. Coloring Book displayed Chance's immense
growth at just 23, and for someone who is also 23, that was something I needed to see (or I guess hear??) I relate to
Chance in so many ways and he is constantly inspiring me. Coloring Book is just the beginning
for Chance, there is nowhere for him to go but up.

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